Resource efficiency: potential and economic implications
This report analyzes four paths that countries could take over the next three decades, ranging from business as usual to a scenario where countries adopt both ambitious climate policies and improve resource efficiency. It finds that smarter use of resources can add $2 trillion annually to the global economy. Despite enormous progress in the past decades towards improving human prosperity and well-being, this has come at the lasting cost of degradation of the natural environment and depletion of natural resources. Meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly affluent population, will require natural resource extraction to increase from 85 to 186 billion tonnes by 2050. This can cause irreversible environmental damage and endanger the capacity of Earth to continue to provide resources which are essential for human survival and development. Analysis in the report shows that policies and initiatives to improve resource efficiency and tackle climate change can reduce global resource extraction by up to 28 per cent while also boosting the value of world economic activity by 1 per cent in 2050, against the baseline. Such policy actions can also cut global greenhouse gas emissions by around 60 per cent in 2050 relative to 2015 levels. This report has been produced by the UNEP’s International Resource Panel in response to a request by leaders of the G7 nations in the context of efforts to promote resource efficiency as a core element of sustainable development. The report conducts a rigorous survey to assess and articulate the prospects and solutions for resource efficiency. It considers how more efficient use of resources can contribute to economic growth, employment and development, at the same time as reducing the world’s use of materials, energy, biomass and water, and the resulting environmental impacts. The report documents many examples of best practices for increasing the resource efficiency of different sectors from countries around the world.